Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow Standup FAIL

So it started snowing for the first time since I've moved out here to DC, and I spent the day cooped up inside watching the news and all the reporter live shots one after another...apparently when it snows in DC there is no other news  (they might have even passed a healthcare bill that day and they probably would have just ran it in a breaking news scroll at the bottom of the screen while they continued tossing from one reporter to the next all in various snowy locations around DC and Virginia).

So of course I start to think that it might be cool to try to shoot my own live shot/stand up-esque thingy. I get all layered up (its in the single digits and yes, still snowing) and lug my equipment friends kindly snapped pics of me as I struggled to assemble it in the snow with two pairs of gloves on...

Having no cameraman and a flipcam that doesn't allow you to see the screen when you're facing the camera, I planned on doing one practice take to see where I was in the frame and then go back to correct it. Of course the framing was totally off, but by the time I got back to my camera, the snow was getting the camera wet and the tripod was totally icy. So I had to call it quits and take the equipment back inside before I ruined yet another camera outside (dropped a digital in the sand, sand got stuck in the gears). When I tried to set down the tripod I realized it was stuck to my wool gloves and had to take my hands out and wait for the thing to defrost before I could peel them off. Anyways I guess you can say I now have a little bit more respect for those reporters who stand out there doing live shots in the snow all day...granted they have it all figured out and a few extra pairs of hands to help, but let's just say snow certainly doesn't make it easy. For your viewing is my one failed trial, complete with friends throwing snowballs at me while I was filming and all....Enjoy.

After I gave up, I joined in with my friends frolicking in the snow like children experiencing their first snow storm...I guess in this case, Californians, difference really.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top Moments of SOTU

Alright so out here in DC, the State of the Union Address is probably a bigger deal than the Super Bowl.
For those of you who are lame enough to have missed it or for those of you who played the Huffington Post's SOTU Drinking Game and blacked out ten minutes in, here are my top ten favorite moments in random order...

  1. Obama calling out the Supreme Court face to face for their asinine Campaign Finance Ruling last week. The Supreme Court justice who clearly voted for it in the back row looking stupid and nodding in disproval for being called out by the big guy on national television. 
  2. Biden making all sorts of hilarious faces and gestures behind the Prez. (if you were playing the Huffington Post's drinking game you would have died from Biden alone tonight)
  3. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, showing how enthralled he was with the speech by giving a good yawn during the one close up he got. In his defense (as I am a proud Democrat and Nevadan) the poor dude is probably F'n exhausted trying to get the silly senate to not kill one another day in and day out, so just unfortunate timing on that one.
  4. Obama making promise number two to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Let's see if he follows through with that one, or we could just wait until another terrorism issue arises and everyone points fingers internally for not having enough military personnel that can translate middle eastern languages because oh wait... you fired them all for being gay. 
  5. Michelle looking classy as always and humbly accepting her husband's acknowledgement of her goal to fight childhood obesity in 2010...I love you Michelle but good luck with that one. We might have a better chance of getting Scott Brown to vote for a healthcare bill than removing the pop tarts from the greasy palms of all the wee Americans.
  6. Obama congratulating the House several times for their ability to actually pass a few bills, the job they were kind of, sort of elected to do. Obama telling the Senate to lose their egos and try to get some damn work done so he doesn't look like a fool at next year's SOTU.
  7. The entire Republican side of the room looking more like angry sculptures in a wax museum than members of congress. Obama having to remind them that they should be clapping for things he intentionally put in the speech to appease them...remember guys you're the ones that don't like taxes, yay for tax cuts! no, not even a golf clap? tough crowd...
  8. The Republican Response by a Governor (keep in mind: no federal political power whatsoever) talking like he was a distinguished member of the GOP when he has only been in office (state office) for 11 days, then pan to random Virginian crowd members like we know or care who the hell they are. 
  9. Female members of congress feeling the need to stand out like sore thumbs in all red, all blue, and all yellow the middle of winter. I'm not one to critique politicians' clothing because it undermines their responsibilities as policymakers but COME ON! If I ever wore an ALL bright red suit to work...
  10. President Obama saying that he will NOT give up on healthcare reform, something this country and millions of uninsured Americans desperately need.
Whether or not any of that will be enough to get the ball rolling on some real legislation this year is yet to be determined. Obama can give rousing call to arms speeches until he's blue in the face, but like he said: he can't do it alone. Hopefully our congress, our ELECTED representatives who were put into office by WE THE PEOPLE with real needs and problems, will be able to get over themselves and their silly little games and their power trips, put their differences aside, stop prioritizing re-election over policy making, and do what they were elected to do...I won't get my hopes up though.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lesson Learned

The cute police horse is not your friend. If you try to take a picture with it and it bites you, the cops will laugh and your picture will turn out to be a candid shot of pain. Only in DC is the law enforcement's bite worse than its bark...Bad Horsey!

Creating the First Draft of History

Yesterday we went to the Newseum, probably my favorite museum to date. One of the random guys who worked there was chatting with my friend and when I walked up to them my friend introduced me as a student journalist and an aspiring reporter. The man said, "I usually tell the guys that come to the museum and say that they want to be reporters to go out and get one of those blue suit jackets and just wear it around and maybe CNN or someone will come pick them up and put them on air." For the last three years since I have been serious about pursuing a career in broadcast journalism and have been working my butt off to do so, I can't tell you how many times I've argued with people who think that being a news reporter is just looking good on camera and having dramatic diction (thank you to the movie Anchor Man for perpetuating this stereotype). But despite what that minimum wage museum attendant said, I don't know that I've ever felt more proud of my career choice than I did that day at the Newseum. 

Going through the Newseum that day made me realize that every event in history, major or minor, dangerous or mundane, has been recorded and documented by reporters. Journalists truly do record the first draft of history, and in many situations put their lives on the line to tell the stories of those people whose voices wouldn't otherwise be heard.

The 9/11 exhibit was a really powerful example of this point. I was sucked into this room with a video playing that told the story of all the photojournalists and broadcast journalists who ran directly into the devastation that was Ground Zero right along with rescue crews, to bring the rest of the nation and the world the story. One photographer had a special wall dedicated to his photos, 3 cameras worth, that were salvaged when rescue crews found his body.

The exhibit also has a portion of the wrecked broadcast antenna from one of the World Trade Center Towers, displayed in front of a wall of front pages from newspapers of all 50 states and 43 other countries.

Another central theme of the Newseum, was freedom of information. Few things are more contradictory to this very idea than the Berlin Wall, also on display.

Along those same lines, was the exhibit on how the freedom to disseminate information varies from country to country. This map illustrates those countries where there is complete or nearly complete freedom of press in green, moderately free press in yellow, and restricted or no free press in's almost hard to believe how little green there is on that world map.

After leaving the Newseum, my roommate and I being outnumbered by the boys wound up eating lunch at Hooters...from the Newseum to Hooters? Really? In any case, I managed to continue on an intellectual conversation while waiting for my wings with one of my other friends here from SC, an international student from Singapore. We were discussing how his country was red on that map, and we had an interesting exchange of ideas about whether or not sacrificing certain freedoms for securities was worth it. I think we found that there isn't necessarily a clear answer to this question, but let me clarify we both agreed that China's restricting their citizens use of Google and Facebook is totally bogus. A life without Google or Facebook seems hardly worth living at all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Big League

A LOT has happened this week. First of all, Tuesday night I had class in the Hart Senate building in Senator Al Franken's office. His Chief of Staff, Drew Littman, taught our class that night and spoke of Franken's transition from actor, comedian, and writer to hard working democratic senator. Littman told us that Franken is one of the most dedicated, hands-on, hard-working, and genuine politicians in congress, but also described the daily struggles of having to mitigate the natural comedian in Franken at times when jokes just aren't appropriate. My favorite story was Franken trying to write a letter to a 110-year-old constituent for her birthday that said "you have a bright future". My personal opinion is that there actually isn't enough humor in politics.

I also became an official member of THE coolest library in the world, The Library of Congress. It's so top-security you have to apply and get an official "reader" card just to study in there...but so worth it. Just this reading room alone makes me want to study in it every day.

As you can see, I've also started my internship this week. The above picture is a first day pic outside the parking lot (that's for you mom). It takes two metros and a ten minute walk to get there, but so worth it. The first day we took a two hour tour and I kept thinking, "I'm not in Kansas anymore" and by Kansas I mean local news, but not kansas local news, obviously.

Yes, I took a pic of my intern credentials like a totally over-eager nerd. But seriously, how cool? Anyways, I've only had one official day (today) but I can already tell I'm going to love it. I've been assigned to work with MSNBC's head Washington corespondent and her producer. And what a crazy day to start, so much news happened today.

While everyone was wrapped up in healthcare and the disappointing results of the Massachusetts senate race, the Supreme Court snuck in a huge decision this morning on the campaign finance reform case that has been pending for months now. In some ways this decision was like hearing the verdict on my own case, as I had spent the whole previous fall semester doing a directed research project culminating in a 30 page paper on Campaign Finance Reform, specifically this case. And what a poor ruling it if the political process didn't have enough corporate control already, elections from here on out will now be even further monetized.

After a full day of class and interning I now have a paper to write, but I'm excited because we are taking a group trip (feels more like a field trip, hello 3rd grade) to the Newseum tomorrow! I will attempt to pick up my picture taking, as I've been seriously lacking in that area this past week. Warm wishes to all my amigos in Southern California getting dumped on by mother nature, not looking forward to that storm moving east.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Charlie Cook's Take on the 2010 Midterm Elections

When it comes to political analysts and elections prognosticators, Charlie Cook is pretty much the dude. His website, The Cook Political Report, is one of two sites (the other being The Rothenberg Political Report) that the country looks to for election predictions and likely outcomes. He is also a frequent guest on MSNBC's Hardball. We were lucky enough to have him as a speaker last week, when he shared his thoughts on the 2010 Midterm elections.

So there's a long history of the majority party suffering losses in the first midterms after the presidential election year. Cook seems to think this year is going to be an especially tough loss for the Dems in congress. And what did he think could be to blame? Well healthcare, of course. Cook said that the Obama administration made a "miscalculation" spending their first year doing healthcare, with the idea that when people are unemployed, they aren't receptive to healthcare legislation. He said that every minute, every hour, every day that they spend on healthcare reform or climate change, is time not spent on getting people back to work. And while healthcare reform was and is of utmost importance to the country, Cook said that what's right for the country might not be right for the year. He believed Obama, as many Presidents often do, came into office and "over read his mandate", by going for the "whole enchilada" on healthcare reform in the first year. But the good news is, Cook seems to think that Obama's White House will come out of the midterms smarter and stronger, and that the upcoming Democratic struggle in the midterms shouldn't be projected onto Obama's can only hope.

Hopefully tomorrow's election in Massachusetts won't be the start of what's to come in the fall's midterms. The last time a Republican won a US senate seat in that state was in 1972. Even just the possibility that Scott Brown could be the next, is an indicator of the repercussions of the healthcare debate for the Democrats, or what Cook described to be "the pendulum swinging back hard" after the Democratic takeover in the 06-08 election cycle.

In other news, I've nearly averted a complete computer disaster after spilling water on my keyboard. Turns out praying to Steve Jobs can be quite effective. Everything seems to be working fine besides a cute little purple vertical line on my screen, but it matches my case so no biggie. And after being sucked into 24 hour coverage of Haiti, it's hard to get overly upset over something so trivial.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Indoor Paradise


Found a little bit of tropical tranquility in DC at the Smithsonian's US Botanic Gardens.  What a beautiful place.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Something to Ponder

This morning I went to the first session of one of my Political Management classes: Electoral and Legislative Processes. The bad news is that it is more or less the exact same thing as a class I have already taken at USC. The good news is that since I already have extensive notes from the class I took at USC, I can focus all my energy on being the annoyingly over-eager, know-it-all student in that class that answers every question and makes the other students feel bad. On a more serious note though, the good news is that while it's the same material, it will naturally be a slightly different class simply because the group of students I am taking it with and the professor who is teaching it are all very different and bring new viewpoints and opinions to the discussions (some of them less-informed than others).

One thing that my professor said today that really resonated in my mind after the class was a thought on the increasing polarity and division of the political parties. I had answered one of my professor's questions about the makeup of voters with the response that a traditional breakdown of likely voters falls into the 40/40/20 rule where 40% of the people will always vote one way, 40% will always vote the other way, and 20% being the undecided swing voters where elections are either won or lost (thank you Dan Schnur for all the election wisdom you have bestowed upon me).

My professor was impressed but then made the comment that recently we have seen the undecided gap slimming down to a margin closer to 10% as more and more people become tied to one or the other ideological/party affiliation. I'm sure this point could also be argued to say that the margin has actually gotten bigger as more and more people have become increasingly disenfranchised with the polarity of the political process on the whole, and have chosen to remain independent. But in any case, the one thing that really struck a chord with me was when my professor said, "We have gone from thinking those who do not agree with us are wrong to those who do not agree with us are evil." And this ladies and gentlemen is what I propose you ponder for the day...

Why is it that we as a nation are unable to look at another individual and not see past their declared ideological positions or party registration and hear them out for the informed opinions that they have? Why can't we learn to respect one another for having different viewpoints? Wasn't diversity what this country was founded on? Ponder on my friends.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And so it begins...

When I got to George Washington University two days ago, I felt like a freshman all over again. I was learning my way around campus and around the city and realizing I didn't know anyone, nor did anyone know me. It's a feeling one should only be forced to encounter once in a lifetime, but I seem to have come back for round two. Add that feeling to the freezing cold, my lack of a social life around this town, and the demanding work load I found out today that I'd be slammed with this semester, and I guess you'd call me a glutton for punishment.

I've countless times been asked why then am I doing this to myself, by people who often follow up with a subsequent sigh of disgust or confusion with my interest in the corruption, scandal, and misery that most perceive the world of American politics to be. I'm not going to argue that politics is anything if not all three of the above mentioned accusations, but honestly that's why I love it. 

Journalists have the ability and responsibility to act as an intermediary between the chaos that is the political world and the reality that is the constituency, filtering out all the Grade A Political Bullshit in the process. Not only can political reporters, take a several-hundred page piece legislation and break down the fine print of the legal mumbo jumbo into a digestible piece of informative news that the average American can understand, but they can also present this convoluted policy in a way that emphasizes its importance to the people whom it will actually be affecting. Truly effective political journalism even has the ability to go one step beyond simply informing and actually foster a sense of political activism that triggers action. In many ways, the news media can even be said to have legislative agenda-setting power. All of this plus covering the inevitable juicy political sex scandal every once in a while, and you've got my dream job. So in response to the why the hell am I here question, I say: what politically-enthused, 20-year-old girl wouldn't love to be interning at NBC Network News in Washington DC?

So much more to say, but the first day of classes has left me exhausted, so stay tuned. Also, it's supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow morning....I'm simultaneously excited and absolutely dreading walking to class.

Goodnight from the Nation's (soon to be snow-covered) Capital.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How SC turned to DC overnight

T-Minus 6 days

A little over a month ago while I was home for Thanksgiving break I asked my mom what she thought about me spending a semester in DC. I'm not sure at the time she thought I was serious...for the record I'm not sure if I knew I was serious either. In any case, she gave me the theoretical green light after convincing my father that DC can't be any less safe than South Central. So I returned to SC and looked into the idea on a whim (it was finals week and I was running out of other semi-legitimized ways to procrastinate).

 It turned out the USC School of Policy Planning and Development has a Semester in Washington Program where they send students to George Washington University to take rigorous political science courses and work in the internship position of their choice. The bad news was I had missed the deadline to apply for the program by a few months. The good news was USC was only sending 4 other students in the spring and the program coordinator felt fairly confident she could convince the head of the program at GW to consider my late application.

Fast forward to the next day when I received an e-mail congratulating me on my acceptance to the program, followed by 8 or so e-mails from the internship coordinator at GW with places she thought I should start applying for internships because I was getting such a late start. I was obviously thrilled that so many doors were able to open up for me so quickly, resulting in this incredible opportunity, but then the panic set in.  What had started out as just another one of my crazy ideas spawned by boredom and who knows what had somehow rapidly evolved into an impulsive, last-minute change of academic/personal plans for the next 4 months of my life. Then I realized that because it all happened almost too quickly and easily, this was obviously what I was supposed to be doing... DC and I were clearly meant to be for Spring 2010.

So I started working backwards...okay I'm not going to be here next semester, can I get out of my housing at SC? will I still be able to graduate with both my degrees on time? can I still get an internship?what the hell do you wear in the snow? Fast forward to a slightly nervous and apprehensive but extremely excited and anxious present me attempting to move cross-country without a car for the first time in my life (apparently this requires a severe consolidation of my wardrobe and the packing of my things in boxes to be shipped??).

A new year, a new district thingy?, a new adventure; and I'm excited to share it all with you!